It'd been almost a week, he was sure.
No, more than a week. Now he wasn't sure. Now he was pacing his apartment with socks that barely kept his feet warm, trying not to step on whatever he'd left on the floor from last night.
He was a nobody!
His name was Noah. An old man. No, not quite old; not young anymore, with bleak eyes. The world was shades of grey in those eyes. Grey and dull colour. One look at him and you could almost feel your own world turning grey. Dreary, really.
He knew he wouldn't have been able to raise her anyway. But still, he loved her. Loved her innocent laugh and the way she'd tug on his hand to buy her an ice cream and... Her colour. She was bright. Pink and yellow and blue and brown and green and red and purple and orange. No black and white.
He'd found her at once upon a time, in a land far, far away. He'd kidnapped her. Well, not really kidnapped. The bruises and scrapes along her arms were a sign enough of what her father did to her. She'd smiled and nodded and let him drive her away to a better place.
He was poor, but he was better! He was! He could make her laugh and he would be there to hug her when she cried; he wouldn't let anyone hurt her. He told her so!
She wasn't going to have much of an education. All she had was a name. Noel. Such a beautiful name. But she met Ami. Ami was only a year younger than her, but Ami went to school. Ami had a fancy uniform and pretty hair and didn't look as ragged as Noel. Ragged like a rag doll, Noah supposed. Still smiling despite whatever happened.
Ami's parents certainly had enough money to live in a better part of town, and Noah could see no reason for them to stay. Obviously, Ami's mom could not either, and within a year of Noel and Ami's meeting, Ami moved away. Noel was horrified, she really was. She cried and cried and Noah couldn't stop her.
Except, of course, if he promised to take her to school.
Then she was overjoyed. He found a nice little public school just a block away, with friendly teachers and a kind principal, and the next morning the two of them walked to school together.
She hugged him and kissed his cheek and promised to be good as she ran through the front doors of the elementary school. But oh, how he missed her!
She didn't come home that day.
She kicked and screamed, just like she'd been told to by Noah. 'If anyone ever tries to hurt you, make as much noise as you can so that someone will find you.' And she did. She was scared. But it didn't help that the strange man who'd grabbed her had shoved a cloth into her mouth.
The girls at school had been so nice to her. She couldn't say the same about the boys, but when she jumped rope or played hopscotch with the girls, they all seemed to want to be her friend. So much that, at the end of the day, she'd made so many friends that she had to start writing down their names. Even though she didn't know how to spell properly.
When the children were let out from school, Noel was more happy than she'd ever remembered being. She couldn't wait to tell Noah about everything that had happened. Maybe they'd even go out for ice cream to talk about it. Smiling at the thought, Noel began to skip down the school steps and down to the sidewalk.
“Hey, little girl,” said a voice somewhere to her left. Turning around, Noel noticed a man. Looking right at her. Wearing a faded pair of jeans and a greasy white shirt, he looked dirty.
“Your mommy told me to come pick you up, okay? Come with me.”
His voice sounded fake. Too nice. And Noel didn't like how he was looking at her. “..I don't have a mommy.”
And that was when he grabbed her shoulders and pushed her into his car.
Noah waited and waited, and soon he went back to the school to find her. She wasn't there. He looked everywhere.
He went to the police and filed their stupid missing report. He just wanted her back! Noel!
An alert was sent out with her description. The whole town must have been looking.
And now it was Christmas Eve Night and he was drinking to calm his nerves. He didn't know how long it'd been. He wanted her back. Noel.
And he sat there, on his patched armchair, and waited. For her to come running through the door, and he'd smile and laugh and he'd take her out for ice cream once again.
Four hours and he'd had more than enough to drink. He found himself half consciously walking down the ugly, yellow painted hallway outside his apartment and down the flourescently-lit staircase. And he was outside.
All the tired sadness he was feeling was only in his mind. For he was alone. He always would be alone. And as the snow began to fall onto the crowded streets and faceless people, he could only cry out her name in hopes she'd come back.
"Noel! Noel, where are you? Noel!"
And only two houses away from the apartment he'd come from, through an open window, into a damp basement, Noel could hear him. But she couldn't respond, of course. The duct tape across her lips was preventing even her screams as that pitch black gun fired once, twice. First in her arm, then in her heart. She'd be dead before midnight, and her kidnapped would be gone to destroy his next life before morning.
For he was alone. He always would be alone.